Russia population likely to shrink significantly

Over at Demography Matters, Randy has provided some valuable data and commentary on Russia’s current demographic situation.

The St Petersburg Times reported that in Russia:

“The number of children under 18 has fallen to 26.5 million now from 38 million in 1995 and 33.5 million in 2000, according to a new report by UNICEF and the State Statistics Service.  “For historical and demographic reasons, the child population in Russia decreased by approximately 12 million over the last 13 years. This is an average of 1 million each year,” said Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF’s representative in Russia.”

“There were a lot of babies born in the 1980s but few in the 1990s, and now we can see the result of the decline,” said Anatoly Vishnevsky, head of the Demography Institute at the Higher School of Economics.

Russia’s age-sex pyramid took a body blow during the period of high natural decrease. The number of young people moving up the age ladder into the prime childbearing ages is much less than those now in the childbearing years. As of January 1, 2009, there were 6.2 million females in the age group 20-24. The 15-19 age group was only 4.5 million and both the 5-9 and 10-14 age groups taken together totaled 6.5 million. As those younger age groups begin childbearing, births will certainly decline even if the TFR rises. Beyond that, deaths will rise as the elderly population grows significantly in size.

The Moscow Times reports that:

“While the number of first graders rose from 1.25 million in 2007 to 1.39 million in 2009 — the first increase in 12 years in 2009 — the overall number of high school students almost halved from 20.6 million in 1998 to 13.3 million last year.  The number of high school graduates fell from 1.25 million in 1998 to 900,000 in 2009 and is expected to drop to 700,000 in 2012.  As a consequence, university student numbers are expected to drop from the current 7.5 million to 4 million in the 2012-13 school year.”

Here is the population pyramid:

It is fairly close to an inverted pyramid.  And since the total fertility rate is currently below the replacement rate (1.4), the peak in cohort size between 20 and 30 yrs will show up as a smaller peak in the 10 and under cohort going forward.   As the next chart shows, the population has stabilized temporarily.   Since  a sizeable portion of the population is now 50 and older, that group will shrink rapidly over time.

A rough calculation assuming a rate of population decline of .5% per year would result in a decrease per year of 700,000, and a decline in population to 128 million in twenty years’ time.  Looking at the chart above, that would represent a serious decline.  For a more optimistic scenario, see 10 Myths about Russia’s Demography.


According to the Russian Health and Social Development Ministry, the average Russian drinks 18 liters of pure alcohol per year. This number is an average calculated from the consumption of all Russians, children and infants included, so the actual amount consumed by drinking adults is much higher than this. If the Russians were able to slash their drinking levels in half they would still be drinking in what The World Health Organization considers, the dangerous range.

Only 2 countries in the world, Moldova and Reunion, infamously boast higher liquor consumption, and when you account for the consumption of homemade alcohol, Russia comes in at number 2, instead of number 3.

That doesn;t bode well for improvement in Russian life expectancy.



  1. […] An irreversibly shrinking population More […]

  2. […] situation démographique russe est préoccupante. Caractérisée par une décroissance chronique depuis une vingtaine d’années, la population de la Fédération de Russie est passée de 148,3 millions d’habitants en 1992 à […]

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